Are Hardcore Gamers Ready to Embrace iOS and Android Gaming?

Something extremely interesting happened last week that made me question if Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms will ever be taken serious by hardcore gamers unless major changes are made. Every analyst in the planet is saying that dedicated portable gaming devices like the 3DS and Vita will be completely replaced by iPhones and Droids. These same people are also saying that tablets like the iPad will eventually replace console gaming, because inevitably they, along with smart TVs, will come with console-like technology built-in. That’s fine and dandy, but the events of last week have now made me question whether hardcore gamers actually want to use these devices over their Xboxs, Wiis and PlayStations, not to mention 3DSs and Vitas. Take a look at the following trailer.

Honestly tell me that doesn’t sound like an incredible concept. This is every hardcore iOS/Android gamer’s fantasy, isn’t it? A true hardcore experience being developed by people who know what it means to create a hardcore game. What’s not to like about that? Well, how about the platform it’s being developed for? After two weeks on Kickstarter Republique failed to capture the interest of the hardcore crowd, which seems all but impossible given how excellent the game looks.

On the Kickstarter message boards, the number one question being asked to the game’s developer, Camouflaj was “why are you releasing this on a phone and not on PC and Mac?” Realizing the Kickstarter deadline was quickly approaching the developer announced a PC/Mac version of the game in hopes of reaching their $500,000 goal. I’ll be honest; it’s not looking good. Republique has made almost $150,000 and has 11 days to go, that’s not much time to reach the $500,000 milestone.

The Motorola Droid Razr Maxx is the best hardware running Android right now, notice the lack of buttons...

Whatever happens with this Kickstarter it begs asking, are there enough hardcore gamers using iPhones and Droids to support the expenses hardcore games cost to develop? Even if there are, do these people even want these types of games on their mobile devices? To be fair Republique was only being made for the iPhone, which further limits the user base, but it’s still a fair question. The whole purpose behind Republique was to answer whether hardcore gamers were looking for top tier console-like experiences on their phone. The answer appears to be…no. Is it really that simple though?

Virtually every hardcore gamer out there has an iPhone or an Android smartphone if they’re old enough. For some reason the two seem to go hand in hand, but the problem isn’t one of userbase, it’s one of hardware limitations. Believe me when I say the hardcore gamers out there would love to be able to use their mobile devices to have experiences that match what’s offered on the 3DS and Vita. The problem is that without a d-pad, analog sticks, or actual buttons, there’s just no way to match the control these dedicated portable gaming devices have. So why would the hardcore community band together for one interesting-looking game on the iPhone, when it’s the iPhone itself that’s the problem.

Likely the world's most popular smartphone, the iPhone 4S is just like the Razr Maxx, where are the buttons?

Moving forward more analysts will say traditional gaming is dead, but I’d like to think that until these companies allow controllers or some other input devices to be used, the hardcore will never fully support these platforms. While there have been some incredible hits on both iOS and Android, the devices these operating systems are on need to be redesigned with the gamer in mind if they truly want be taken serious by the hardcore gaming community.

What’s your take on this? I’d love to hear what you think of mobile gaming today and where it’s going in the future. Do you think Apple, Google, and the others will eventually cater to the hardcore gamer in all of us by releasing controllers for their set-top boxes or are we going to have to make do with simplistic games for the rest of eternity? Remember the scary truth, the casual userbase is far greater than the hardcore so we might be fighting a losing battle…

6 thoughts on “Are Hardcore Gamers Ready to Embrace iOS and Android Gaming?”

  1. It seems to depend on the intended sophistication of the game being made. It’s obvious why concepts like Angry Birds work; you don’t need buttons, and it’s quick. Of course that doesn’t mean every game has to be that way on a mobile platform, but that’s the trend that I see. That’s why 50 million ABS copies have sold, and hardcore titles are rare to cross into the millions. Since varous touch controls just don’t make sense for hardcore games, then the market won’t want to waste its time. If it’s forced, or plain doesn’t feel right, most will be turned off. Why play Modern Combat when you can have Call of Duty or Battlefield? Why play Infinity Blade when you can have Final Fantasy or Mass Effect? Why play Shadowgun when you can have Gears of War? Sure, the price difference is huge, but the controls, community and overall experience can’t be matched on a smartphone or tablet. If controllers were made a priority, I could see a much different attitude. Republique looks incredible, and even makes sense on a phone…but it appears the market is jaded towards concepts like this.

  2. Indeed Justin. I was saddened to learn that Republique wasn’t taking off on Kickstarter, but at the end of the day it makes sense when you look at the control scheme for the other hardcore games. One game that plays superbly and does everything the hardcore ask for isn’t enough to turn the tide. These people demand superior gameplay options with controls that are spot on, which just isn’t possible right now without add-ons. Like you said, there are countless other games that work perfectly, but I’m not sure how I would classify them.

  3. I think dedicated gaming devices will always have at least some place in the market, just because they are devices made specifically for gaming. While consoles have branched out to provide more media features, let’s not kid ourselves: people buy PlayStation 3s and Xbox 360s because they want those games. They buy PSPs, Vitas, or 3DS systems because they want to play on them.

    I do see smartphone/tablet-based gaming taking the world by storm, but I don’t see them completely eclipsing dedicated game devices. The reason being is that people purchase smartphones and tablets, for the most part, for reasons other than gaming. People purchase the smart phone for convenience or for media-connectivity features, or a number of other reasons. Gaming is just an excellent bonus. More often than not, people who I know with these devices buy games just because they feel like they have the ability and want to give it a try. But when the time comes for a meaningful session of play, they have no objections to playing on a game machine. I think the people who have not bought game machines aren’t being “lost” to smartphones or tablets. They were never into video games in the first place. If they were, the game machines themselves would have been enough to get them to jump in.

    The availability of games on the smartphone/tablet market is bringing games to a wide audience of people that may not normally be convinced to purchase a dedicated game machine. You can take that how you will. I don’t see these markets as fierce opponents to each other in all cases, but at times, distinct entities that can exist in harmony. I bought a few touch games but I still carry around my 3DS to play on–the reason being is that I’m a heavy game user and I find sufficient reason to buy a game machine. A fellow colleague of mine who doesn’t much care for games and just bought a game on his phone? Not necessarily a gamer, but he wants something to waste time. Game companies need to remember how to entice their customers and how to get people to want to buy a dedicated game machine–they are selling a certain kind of experience that only these machines can deliver.

    For tablet/smartphone based gaming, the problem I see is the conversion. At its core, there is no basic model to go from, unless you’re talking Apple. Even then, it’s pretty hard to nail down (the difference is huge if you’re playing on an iPhone versus an iPad). You have a touch interface, and that’s about it. Game developers have to keep in mind what the platform is capable of. There are no face buttons, analog sticks, or directional buttons built in for them to start with–so doing direct ports of console/handheld games just confuses me. They need to find games that work with the touch interface. Otherwise you’re trying to sell a game on the wrong hardware. Even if game peripherals are made available for Android/iOS, the problem is that you then have to convince people to go out and purchase them–is your game good enough to convince an average user to go out and pick up an extra attachment? Or by that point, if they are interested, are they already into gaming, and if so, are they more interested in buying a 3DS or Vita?

  4. Nice comment Tim. I wonder what the future holds for all these devices. The hardcore will always want more, but I wonder about the market as a whole. Do you think there will always be a dedicated portable gaming machine from Nintendo? What about consoles, do you think there will be a PlayStation 16 one day? The more the world changes, the more it’s looking like gaming will become like movies and music where these games will play on a wide assortment of boxes and become scalable to the device at hand. I hope that never happens, but it’s sure looking that way.

  5. I think Nintendo will have at least one machine on the market, for at least quite some time. Sony probably will too, though they are having their own problems. The way I see it: these machines ARE fancy toys. People really hate the word “toy” in the game industry, but really, that’s what you’re paying for. It’s a leisure device. Unlike a PC, which has more applications other than games, consoles are about a dedicated game experience device. You can add more features, but they are primarily meant for play. I think there will always be a place for it, because I think there’s money to be made. Once it no longer becomes viable to do so, then they will switch over to being a content provider for someone else. But really, if you have the means, making your own console lets you build your own framework and go from there. If you have the in-house content to help support your console, it has a chance. If you can attract third-party software or in some cases, software that really cannot be played anywhere else (either because the hardware has some unique gimmick, the controller is specific, etc), then you have an even better shot.

  6. That was always Nintendo and Sega’s Strategy and it worked wonders. Sega was pushed out because of other competitors, but not a changing market. I really wonder how many years we have left for those consoles and portables. There will always be the hardcore that want them, but eventually our TVs will be so powerful they could run games natively without the need for dedicated consoles. Let’s not forget cloud-based gaming where we can have super powerful computers on a screen with limited resources available. This is the future I envision, one where the idea of connecting anything to your TV is archaic. Like I said I think there will always be demand, but will there always be a market? We’ll find out in another five years or so and te going to be one wild ride.

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